City will give no quarter to plugging parking meters

I’ve lived here for the last 19 years and what removes a smile from my face is a parking ticket. I know the city needs more money. But is the city going to get it from the parking meters? What if we started donations to Save the Tickets, i.e. a bucket at the Transit Center? Each morning, before the shift, the meter attendants could take a few bucks in quarters from their pockets and feed the meters and only the folks who are clear violators get a ticket. Durango gets its money to feed the beast, and the people of Durango get a break from the parking fetishism of the ticket hounds. – Robert Ludwig

It’s a charming thought. Imagine a city where the parking-enforcement officer feeds your expired meter.

Then, imagine a place that could be free from the scourge of plastic bags. And then imagine a town where weedy parks are OK because they’re “organic.”

To quote the great philosopher/musician Meatloaf, two out of three ain’t bad.

Durango is a cowtown that kowtows to anyone who raises a fuss. The City Council caved on demands for chemical-free turf. The jury’s out on plastic bags.

But no councilor is going to champion a kinder, gentler approach to orange envelopes under your windshield wiper.

In fact, the city is opposed to parking leniency. In the city’s 2012 budget, under the Parking Division’s highlights and goals, one of the bullet points is: “optimize meter enforcement zone.”

To be fair, another bullet point is “continue to improve customer service.” So don’t expect a break. But you can expect a smile – when you pay that fine.

And pay you will. The city collects 98 percent of citation revenue.

Because budgets are arithmetic, let’s do the math on your Save the Ticket gambit.

Again, turning to the city’s 2012 budget, the parking division will generate $599,000 in “charges for services,” which includes parking passes, coins from meters and boot removal.

An additional $450,000 is budgeted in parking fines and another $110,000 classified as “miscellaneous” revenue for a grand total of nearly $1.16 million

So we’re talking about big money here, and money makes people nutty, especially the City Council.

Given the recent franchise fee fracas, do we really want to provoke the city councilors to get even zanier than they already are?

You have suggested that only “clear violators” should get parking tickets. What is any less clear than a meter that flashes “Expired?”

Expired parking is like being pregnant – it’s either “yes” or “no.”

To have a built-in amnesty system with those who enforce that law would result in charges of ticket-fixing and cronyism. Do we really aspire to be the Chicago of the Rockies?

Anyway, let’s look at this from a practical standpoint. In order to make up just the $450,000 in parking fines, it would require parking enforcement personnel to plug 1,800,000 quarters annually.

Given that there are four Durango parking enforcement officers and assume that everyone puts in a full eight-hour shift daily every weekday with no vacations, some 7,058 quarters would have to be plugged sunrise to sundown.

That’s 1,764 quarters per officer per day. They would have to plug Durango’s 980 parking meters at a rate of more than 220 quarters per hour.

So obviously, the city isn’t going to give tickets the boot.

Instead, it’s going to give tickets and boots. The city projects booting 395 vehicles this year, up from the 302 in 2010.

Maybe we can hit that lofty booting goal by booting the cars of people who smoke cigarettes outside, which apparently is illegal under a new city ordinance.

However, smoking marijuana apparently is now legal for both medicinal “wellness” and, based on Tuesday’s statewide vote, for general recreation.

Just make sure you don’t carry your pot in a single-use plastic bag and stay off the organic grass. Which grass? The one filled with dandelions and bindweed in select parks.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you thank a veteran today for defending the right to ridicule the government in newspaper columns.

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